Jose Mourinho is pleased Tanguy Ndombele made the right choice when his relationship with the Tottenham boss was at a crossroads this summer.
Ndombele had a difficult first year at Spurs after joining in a club-record move last summer and quickly fell foul of Mourinho following the Portuguese’s arrival at the club.
Mourinho publicly criticised his fitness and attitude and his Spurs career looked in doubt after he only made two brief substitute appearances following the season’s resumption after lockdown.
Mourinho has recently said he questioned Ndombele’s commitment and desire, but the France international has come back fighting and impressed in his first 90 minutes of 2020 in Thursday’s 3-1 Europa League win over Shkendija.
“I just think that he felt the direction which it was going was not the right one and it’s something that players with me, they feel all of the time that I don’t give positions for free,” Mourinho said.
“The players have to fight, they have to perform, I would never give him a place in the team because he was an expensive buy or because he’s an important player.
“He has to do that by himself, probably with the help of his colleagues, with the help of his team-mates, he went in a good direction.
“Let’s wait and see, Premier League matches are much more difficult matches than this (Shkendija) one.
“The intensity is completely different, the quality of the opponent is much better. But against Southampton, even for 45 minutes, he had positive things.
“I’m very happy. I tell all the time, when a player improves it’s a player’s responsibility, it’s the player’s credit, it’s not the coach who makes the miracle.
“The player does that by himself, to understand what he has to understand and go in the right direction that he has to go.”
Mourinho has been impressed with Ndombele’s reaction to being out of the team and has urged other players in a similar position, including Dele Alli, to value the minutes they get.
“Yes, that’s what I want,” he said. “I don’t want players to moan, I don’t want players to be feel frustrated, I don’t want players to feel that I have something against them when I don’t pick them.
“I want players to fight for the minutes that they want to be on the pitch and when you play for Tottenham, you have to understand that Tottenham wants to be better and better and the rewards are going to be better and better and the players cannot have a comfortable position on the pitch.
“They have to be ready to fight for the minutes they want to be on the pitch.”